Sunday, March 22, 2009

69 Species, 190 total

Wow, what a morning! I left the house at 8:00 AM and finally returned at 1:00 PM after having found 69 species of birds, including a new one for my neighborhood list. It's that time of year when winter residents are still here but north-bound migrants and summer residents are starting to arrive. So there are lots of birds out there to find! Here are the highlights from this morning:
  • At Stillforest and Chester Forest the Red-shouldered Hawk nest still has a parent on it. There was also a nice mix-species foraging flock of songbirds. The flock was mostly Yellow-rumped Warblers, with 1 nice male "Audubon's Warbler". This used to be considered a separate species and is very similar to other Yellow-rumped Warblers but it has a yellow throat. I've never seen one in the neighborhood before.
  • Near the end of Meadowheath a single Chimney Swift flew over me, the first one I've seen this year.
  • Nearby I heard and finally saw a singing male Black-and-white Warbler, one of the earlier warblers to move through the area during spring migration.
  • On Lake Creek near the downstream edge of the T&C playing fields I found a new shorebird for the year, a Pectoral Sandpiper. I got this picture of it foraging next to the larger Greater Yellowlegs. And later I found a few more on the empty soccer fields.

  • I saw a single Swainson's Hawk soaring over the T&C soccer fields, the first I've seen this year.
  • Near the last dam on the creek I located a Great Horned Owl nest with a parent on the nest. My neighbor Gracen Duffield on Alvin High Ln. found this nest yesterday and sent me a great photo she took of it. (See below.) What's interesting is that last year and the year before, this was a Red-shouldered Hawk's nest (discovered by Steven McDonald). Great Horned Owls are very opportunistic and flexible in their nesting habits.

  • On my way back home I stopped to look up the creek near the footbridge and found this Little Blue Heron, a handsome bird I usually only see on our creek during migration.

  • Nearby next to the small waterfall on the creek, I saw a small bird walking on the rocks and I watched it grab, kill, and eat something tiny from the surface of the water. At first I thought it was a Spotted Sandpiper in breeding plumage but then I saw that instead of spots it had streaks, and it was not a shorebird at all. It was a Louisiana Waterthrush. This is actually a warbler that lives near streams and creeks. It's one of the few warblers that can breed in the Austin area and I've wondered if any spend the summer in our neighborhood. (This bird was probably a north-bound migrant.) It was a first for my neighborhood bird list, bringing my total up to 190 species I've seen here since 2006.
In the past couple days my neighbor Steven McDonald on Perthsire has also been seeing some great birds in the neighborhood. Some that I have not seen yet are migrating Anhingas, a Broad-winged Hawk, a Yellow-throated Vireo, and the first Black-chinned Hummingbird of the season.

According to Blogger, this is my 200th post. I can hardly believe it!


Sally Breed said...

Terrific photo of Great Horned Owl! I really want to see if I can quitely spot it. And I haven't seen a Louisiana Waterthrush since 2006. Thanks for the detailed locations. Yesterday there were 3 Pectoral Sandpipers with the Greater Yellowlegs.

Mikael Behrens said...

Yes, Gracen got a good shot of that owl!

This spring I need to keep my eye on the Town and Country soccer fields more. Last spring I would sometimes find groups of shorebirds on them, including Pectoral, Baird's, and Least Sandpipers. Who knows, maybe an Upland Sandpiper or Buff-breasted Sandpiper or a longspur could show up on those fields!